In three years time the Caribbean Community of Nations, CARICOM, will celebrate its 50th anniversary, an impressive landmark for a regional integration movement. Over the years, many have been the challenges confronting it and even threatening its very existence. Yet it has persevered amidst all the frustrations, predictions of doom and other negatives.
There are not many among us who remember the positives and each time frustrations arise, so too does petty nationalism rear its ugly head with the pronouncements that CARICOM, and presumably regional integration, is dead and that individual countries should seek their future elsewhere, preferably in some sort of arrangement with countries of the north.
That the regional movement, handicapped to a large extent by successive waves of short-sighted leadership, has survived for almost half a century is a testimony to the critical value of regional integration and for the need for small states to find solutions to their development challenges by working together.
This is not to say that all is well with CARICOM or that much more progress should have been made by now. In particular it has suffered from a palpable lack of commitment on the part of member states and regional leaders to implement agreements made. As a result, our progress has been less than spectacular but at the very least our commitment to the regional integration movement has created valuable space for survival and development.
In current times there has been a wave of new challenges arising from globalization, trade agreements, the concerted thrust at global domination on the part of powerful nations and downright protectionism. Powerful global institutions in trade, finance and economic development are bent on forcing small and underdeveloped nations to bend to their dictates. The COVID -19 pandemic has severely impacted on our economies.
But there are other hurdles as well, some of our own creation. The state of political democracy in the region is one such area, often manifested at election time. In the very home of CARICOM, Guyana, not only has there been a failure to have a clear conclusion of the general elections conducted over four months ago, but as a result there have been malicious attacks on the integrity of our highest legal institution, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as it adjudicated on election issues.
There have even been calls for Guyana to leave CARICOM, a sentiment also shared in at least one northern capital in the region. Worse now, the virtual collapse of LIAT, a regional instrument nearly as old as CARICOM itself is creating strains in the heart of the best manifestation of regional integration, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) thereby undermining its viability.
In the face of all these it is important that we keep level heads. Whether we admit it or like it, the reality is that we must either continue to work together or perish. Those leaders with their half-baked ideas and illusions that playing up to global wheeler-dealers will bring salvation are doing a disservice to the region. All is far from well, but individually we will all be worse off. Work together or perish , the choice is ours.